Trial Near for Man Charged in 2011 Murder of Wife

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WASHINGTON — The trial of a German man charged with killing his elderly socialite wife remains on target to start early next month, a judge said Thursday, after hearing from a doctor and lawyers in the case.

A doctor who has examined 49-year-old Albrecht Muth told a judge Thursday that his condition has not worsened in recent weeks and that Muth is again eating intermittently after bouts of self-imposed starvation that dropped his weight below 100 pounds and caused prolonged hospital stays.

The trial is scheduled for Dec. 2 in District of Columbia Superior Court.

Muth is charged with first-degree murder in the August 2011 beating and strangulation death of 91-year-old Viola Drath, a German journalist and socialite. He faces life in prison if convicted.

At the time, Muth had called police to report that he had found his wife dead in the bathroom of the couple’s row house in the posh Georgetown neighborhood, but was arrested days later after detectives said they determined that Muth had killed Drath.

Muth, who strolled the neighborhood in military uniforms and claimed to be a brigadier general in the Iraqi army, has denied guilt and has said Drath was killed in an Iranian hit job. Prosecutors say those assertions are self-aggrandizing fictions and that Muth had no income of his own, no connection to the Iraqi army and lived off the support of his wife of more than 20 years.

The case has long been stalled by concerns over Muth’s mental and physical state.

Dr. Russom Ghebrai, who has treated Muth, said Muth has not gotten significantly weaker or lighter but remains too frail to come to court. Muth eats off and on, Ghebrai said, in temporary respites from a fast that the defendant has said are for religious purposes.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell Canan urged Muth, as he’s done before, to recover strength ahead of trial so he can participate in court.

“In my view it is within your power to do so,” Canan told Muth. “The status quo is not acceptable in terms of not going to trial.”

In another development Thursday, Canan rejected, at least for now, a defense bid to subpoena former CIA director David Petraeus as a potential witness in the case.

Muth says he knows Petraeus and that the retired four-star general could substantiate his claims, but prosecutors say in a court filing that they have interviewed him and that he “stated he has absolutely no information to provide regarding defendant Muth’s alleged occupation or his relationship with Viola Drath.”

Canan said Muth’s public defenders have not yet established a basis for calling Petraeus as a witness.

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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